Airport security increases | SteamboatToday.com

Airport security increases

Absence of flights continues through today

Gary E. Salazar

— While air traffic resumed on a limited basis Thursday in some parts of the country, it remained at a standstill at Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Airport security has been stepped up in the wake of terrorists attacks on Tuesday that included the hijacking of three commercial flights that were used to crash into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.

Although the airport here is small in size, it must meet the requirements the Federal Aviation Administration has mandated for every airport in the country.

Airport crews in Hayden Thursday worked feverishly to comply with the requirements set by the FAA.

Although commercial flights are not intended to resume until this afternoon at the earliest, the airport crew is trying to meet the federal standards for shipping companies.

“We don’t know exactly when we will open,” Aviation Director Jim Parker said Thursday. “We are hoping for clearance by the end of the day.”

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Since the FAA suspended air travel Tuesday, the agency has issued a list of federal requirements to airports across the country before those airports can reopen.

These requirements impact a variety of security areas, including parking lots.

“Before we can open, we have to send a letter to the FAA that shows we have done what they asked,” Parker said. “They won’t allow us to open until they look at what we have done.”

To comply with the requirements, the airport must ensure vehicles cannot be parked within 300 feet of the terminal. Motorists dropping off or picking up passengers cannot come within 150 feet of the airport and are not allowed to leave a vehicle unattended.

To meet these two requirements, the airport towed about 30 vehicles Thursday that were parked in front of the terminal, Parker said.

“These cars were left by passengers in the parking lot,” Parker said. “For us to open, we had to move them.”

The cars were moved to the airport’s remote parking lot, which is north of the airport’s administration building.

To ensure cars cannot be parked in the lots in front of the terminal, airport crews were placing concrete barriers around the building.

“The barriers will keep people in the proper area,” said Melvin Richardson, airport maintenance supervisor. “We are putting these barriers in place so we will be ready to go when they say we can fly.”

The parking requirements will have a huge impact on the airport parking availability, Parker said. The majority of the airport’s parking lots are within 300 feet of the airport.

“We have a total of about 300 parking spaces,” Parker said. “With the new requirements, I don’t know if I have a hundred.”

People coming to the airport will be forced to park in the remote lot, Parker said.

The new requirements also call for increased security. Parker would not give specifics of the new security but did stress travelers can expect more armed personnel.

“Passengers will see additional uniformed armed officers out here,” Parker said.

The airport is also requesting the FAA waive two requirements.

The airport is asking the agency to allow it to open even though the parking lot for rental cars is within 300 feet of the airport.

The second requirement is the airport’s facility that oversees general operations, which is right next to the terminal.

The airport cannot move the general operations from the building, Parker said.

Parker is hopeful the airport will open as soon as possible, so freight companies such as United Parcel Service and Federal Express can get back up and running, he said.

“Those companies are ready to go,” Parker said.

The commercial operations of the airport will depend on Denver International Airport’s operations.

Great Lakes Aviation, which is the airport’s main passenger carrier, is hopeful to resume commercial flights this afternoon, said Dick Fontaine, the company’s senior vice president of marketing.

“The tentative plan is to have flights resume by Friday afternoon,” Fontaine said. “Right now, we don’t have an exact schedule.”

The carrier is trying to determine United Airlines’ plans for DIA, he said.